Canucks gameday: Pivotal Pacific Division showdown vs. Flames

The Vancouver Canucks will look to end a three-game losing skid when they host the Calgary Flames at Rogers Arena on Saturday night.

Calling a February game a “must-win” may seem a bit premature, but the Vancouver Canucks really can’t afford to let these two points against a division rival get away.

After a perfect 2-0-0 start to the five-game road trip, the Canucks proceeded to lose the next three — having been thoroughly dominated in the final two contests. But that’s all in the past now, and Vancouver has to refocus.

The Canucks will kick off a six-game homestand against the Calgary Flames, who are also slumping with three straight losses as well as defeats in five of their last six outings. One of the cold streaks will end tonight.

Vancouver enters Saturday with a two-point lead on the Vegas Golden Knights for tops in the Pacific Division. The Flames are five points behind, and a regulation loss here would be a huge blow to their dwindling dreams of repeating as Pacific Division champs.

Players to watch

J.T. Miller: The Flames managed to keep Miller pointless in the first two meetings, but he’s been red hot as of late. The 26-year-old has five goals and as many assists over his last eight games. Miller picked up a goal in Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild.

Matthew Tkachuk: Most of Calgary’s top guns haven’t found their A-games this season, but Tkachuk is an exception. The fearless power forward leads the team with 43 points, and he’s second in goals (17).

Brock Boeser: At some point, the bounces have to go his way. Boeser hasn’t found the back of the net since Jan. 11, a 6-3 road win against the Buffalo Sabres. Eventually, the puck luck will find Boeser’s stick. Tonight would be the perfect time for it.

Sean Monahan: The 25-year-old Monahan hasn’t been his usual self, with just 16 goals and 38 points. But he does have a goal and one assist in the season series against Vancouver, and he’s a serious matchup problem for this defence.

Prediction: 4-3 Canucks (shootout)

The postseason doesn’t officially start until April, but you know Rogers Arena will have the feels and intensity of playoff game. You have two heated rivals playing on national television with two crucial points up for grabs. This will be a great test for Vancouver’s young players.

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But when all is said and done, I expect the Canucks to rebound nicely with a close 4-3 shootout win. Boeser will lead the way with two goals, while Miller and Bo Horvat add the other tallies. For good measure, Boeser will snipe the game-winning goal in the shootout.

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